Ancestry of Emily and Zooey Deschanel

Emily and Zoey Deschanel have an interesting family tree, including French, Irish, Quaker and Colonial American ancestors.
Emily and Zoey Deschanel have an interesting family tree, including French, Irish, Quaker and Colonial American ancestors. Getty / FilmMagic

"Bones," a FOX television series starring Emily Deschanel as Dr. Temperance Brennan and David Boreanaz as FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth, is one of my favorite "fun" television shows. Bones is based on the Kathy Reich's novels that I also enjoy. I love Emily Deschanel's acting, and I can't resist digging into French ancestry when presented with the opportunity...

Yes, Deschanel is French

The Deschanel surname, as it sounds, is French.

Emily and Zooey's grandfather, Paul Jules Deschanel, was born in Oullins, Rhône, France on 5 November 1906 and immigrated to the U.S. in 1930. Paul's parents, Joseph Marcelin Eugène Deschanel and Marie Josephine Favre, married in Vienne, Isère, Rhône-Alpes, France on 20 April 1901. They both remained in France, although Marie did make several trips to the U.S. to visit her children. The two died in Lyon in 1947 and 1950, respectively. From there the Deschanel line stretches back through several generations of weavers from Planzolles, a tiny commune in the department of Ardèche, France.1

Additional French surnames in the Deschanel family include Amyot, Borde, Duval, Sautel, Boissin and Delenne, and the records of many of Emily Deschanel's French ancestors can be viewed online.

Quaker Ancestry

Emily's paternal grandmother, Anna Ward Orr, descends from a family of Quakers from Lancaster and Chester counties in Pennsylvania.

Several, including her great-grandparents Adrian Van Bracklin Orr and Beulah (Lamb) Orr, and great-great-grandparents Joseph M. Orr and Martha E. (Pownall) Orr, are buried in the Sadsbury Meeting Cemetery. Beulah Lamb, also from a  Quaker family, was born in Perquimans County, North Carolina to Caleb W.

Lamb and Anna Matilda Ward. Both the Lamb and Ward families were in Perquimans County for generations.

Deep Ohio and New York Roots

Ohio roots run deep on the maternal side of Emily Deschanel's family tree. The Weir immigrant ancestor, William Weir, emigrated from Lifford, Donegal, Ireland to America in 1819 aboard the Conestoga, and eventually settled in Brown, Carroll, Ohio.

Emily Deschanel descends from William's youngest son, Addison Mohallan Weir, through his second wife, Elizabeth Gurney. Interestingly, this takes us back to France, as Elizabeth's father, George William Guerney was born in France — Belfort (possibly Belfort or another commune in the department of Territoire-de-Belfort) according to the death certificate of his eldest daughter, Jenny (Guerney) Knepper, which also stated that her mother, Anna Hanney, was born in Bern, Switzerland.

Another Ohio ancestor of Emily Deschanel is Henry Anson Lamar, a steamer pilot on the Great Lakes. Henry's wife, Nancy Vrooman, was born in Schoharie, New York, a descendant of Hendrick Vrooman who emigrated from the Netherlands with two brothers to settle in New Netherland (New York) during the 17th century. He sadly was one of 60 people killed at the Schenectady Massacre of 1690.

Six generations back in the family tree of Emily and Zooey Deschanel is an interesting New York farmer named Caleb Manchester, descendant of an early Rhode Island family. He and his wife, Lydia Chichester, settled on a farm near Scipioville, Cayuga, New York where they lived for 48 years and raised 4 sons and 7 daughters, only two of whom survived them. Newspaper accounts tell the story of Caleb's sudden death on 5 October 1868 at his home in Scipioville.

"Caleb Manchester, of Scipio, was discovered lying dead in his barn on Monday last. He went from his house, apparently in usual health, to harness a team, and it is supposed must have been seized by a fit."2

Yes, They Have Irish Ancestry Too

Biographies of Emily Deschanel also often mention her Irish ancestry, which she does have  -- her maternal great-great grandmother, Mary B.

Sullivan, was born in Painesville, Lake County, Ohio to Irish immigrants John Sullivan and Honora Burke.

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Sources:

1. Planzolles, Ardèche, France, naissance, Jean Joseph Augustin Deschanel, 26 Mai 1844;
Les Archives départementales de l'Ardèche - Registres paroissiaux et d'etat civil.

2. "Central New York News," The (Syracuse) Journal, 9 October 1868, page 2, col. 1;
New York State Historical Newspapers - Old Fulton NY Post Cards